In 2005, Sheryl Luna burst onto the poetry scene with Pity the Drowned Horses, which quickly became a classic of border and Southwest literature with its major point of reference in and around El Paso, Texas. Now with the poems in Magnificent Errors, Luna’s third collection and winner of the Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry, Luna turns her gaze toward people living on the margins—whether it be cultural, socioeconomic, psychological, or personal—and celebrates their ability to recover and thrive.
Lowering Your Standards for Food Stamps
Words fall out of my coat pocket,
soak in bleach water. I touch everyone’s
dirty dollars. Maslow’s got everything on me.
Fourteen hours on my feet. No breaks.
No smokes or lunch. Blank-eyed movements:
trash bags, coffee burner, fingers numb.
I am hourly protestations and false smiles.
The clock clicks its slow slowing.
Faces blur in a stream of hurried soccer games,
sunlight and church certainty. I have no
poem to carry, no material illusions.
Cola spilled on hands, so sticky fingered,
I’m far from poems. I’d write of politicians,
refineries and a border’s barbed wire,
but I am unlearning America’s languages
with a mop. In a summer-hot red
polyester top, I sell lotto tickets. Cars wait for gas
billowing black. Killing time has new meaning.
A jackhammer breaks apart a life. The slow globe
spirals, and at night black space has me dizzy.
Visionaries off their meds and wacked out
Meth heads sing to me. A panicky fear of robbery
and humiliation drips with my sweat.
Words some say are weeping twilight and sunrise.
I am drawn to dramas, the couple arguing, the man
head-butting his wife in the parking lot.
911: no metered aubade, and nobody but
myself to blame.